Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz
Finally Wilder has a chance to silence a large portion of his doubters and put a legitimate name on his record. Deontay had tried to nail down a scrap with Ortiz before but the portly portsider tested positive for a banned substance. Now he is presumed clean by the WBC and this big test is going ahead on March 3. Wilder will need to implement the spearing jab and reasonable footwork he displayed in the first fight with Bermane Stiverne and temper the wild finishing instincts he has shown in so many of his wins.
Ortiz is a dangerous puncher and agile heavyweight who has a good chance of upsetting the applecart. I give respect to Wilder for taking on the division boogeyman and it should strengthen his hand slightly in negotiations for a possible unification with Anthony Joshua. Ortiz is a tough proposition but if Wilder can weather the early storm he can outlast and possibly even stop Ortiz late on.
Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker
Speaking of Joshua, before he tangles with Wilder he has to get past the small matter of WBO champion Joseph Parker. The pair meet in Wales on March 31 and despite some fight fans expecting a rollover job I imagine that Joshua will have his hands full with the marauding Kiwi. Saying that, AJ is expected to prevail but will need his strong jab and good judgement of distance to keep Parker at bay. Joshua’s fight ending power should also be a key factor in this bout as well. Once Parker stops coming forward (for fear of what is coming back) and only travels in reverse, he’s on borrowed time against a ruthless finisher like Joshua.
George Groves vs. Chris Eubank Jr
The semi-final of the innovative and extremely well-received World Boxing Super Series sees Groves and Eubank Jr clash on February 17 in Manchester for what is a genuinely big fight. There are many variables to take into consideration before being able to conclusively pick a winner. Groves is more experienced, punches harder, has a solid jab and good fundamentals but he may be showing signs of wear and tear and question marks have always followed him over stamina and gas tank issues.
Eubank Jr is younger, fresher, has a phenomenal workrate, good uppercut and speed but doesn’t hit as hard with single shots, is small for the weight and sometimes his footwork and positional sense are lacking, leaving him in vulnerable places and liable to be countered.
Oleksandr Usyk vs. Mairis Briedis
The World Boxing Super Series semi-final that all hardcore boxing fans are looking forward to. Quality southpaw Usyk mixes intelligent ringcraft with an intense workrate for a cruiserweight and Latvian opponent Briedis will have to use all of his attributes to keep the Ukrainian off him. Briedis has a solid dig, good jab and can maul and brawl on the inside as he showed in his last fight with Cuban Mike Perez. Will that be enough to win multiple rounds against Usyk though?
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Francisco Estrada
Sor Rungvisai came to prominence with his two excellent wins over legendary Nicaraguan Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez that earned him Fighter of the Year recognition in some quarters. A tight and debatable decision in their first meeting was erased and vindicated when the Thai road warrior starched Gonzalez in their rematch six months later.
Sor Rungivsai’s WBC super-flyweight title will be on the line against Mexican Estrada, who once pushed Gonzalez relatively close himself down at a lower weight and is coming off the back of a quality win over Carlos Cuadras on the previous ‘Superfly’ card in September, 2017. This February 24 clash will be explosive.